Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Celebrated 50th birthday with a 50 mile run

To celebrate my 50th birthday I planned to run 50 miles on a 10km circuit route (8 x 10kms) nearby in Comox, B.C.. With 216 feet of elevation gain per loop I would end up with a total of 2,777 feet elevation gain. I hadn't considered that ice and snow would be a problem since the temperatures at sea level on Vancouver Island are usually mild mid winter. However, as the day drew near for the run a high pressure weather system moved over much of Canada producing record low temperatures east of the Rockies. The day before my planned running date, my birthday, December 31st, snow fell, and black ice became a problem on several sections of the route. To finish before the sunset I would have to start before the sunrise. This meant I had to wear a head-lamp. I wondered how I would navigate the snow and black ice with a head-lamp for over two hours. I would have to be cautious.

Near 5 a.m. I set off running alone from my self-serve aid station at Point Holmes, heading west along a coastal trail that wound along beside the beach. Snow fell, flashing in front of me in the brightness of the head-lamp. Heading up the edge of Lazo Road, I could see ahead about 4-5 metres, and dropped back the pace when I encountered black ice. Once onto the sidewalks on Guthrie Road I was out of the woods and had much better visibility. There were some good climbs coming up Guthrie and Pritchard Roads that took some work. At the top I was encouraged by the thought that when I switched directions for my next loop after my aid station I would be coming down the same hills. I had to take things cautiously in the dark on Knight Road as there were long sections of black ice and uneven patches of snow on its shoulders.

The sun came up on my third loop so I could take in the ocean and mountain views the route had to offer. Upon completion of this I was met at my aid station by my wife, Olivia, with a bacon and egg sandwich and veteran marathoner Ken Richardson who would pace me around to the halfway point. It was good to have someone to talk to, as this helped the miles to fly by. He gave me some advice on how to mentally move through the final 40kms. When we reached my aid station at the completion of this stage we were greeted with cheers by a group of members from the Comox Valley Road Runners. One of them asked me how long I had been training for the run and Ken Richardson answered them, "He's been training 50 years for this one." Before I left on the fifth loop though they sang "Happy Birthday" to me. They had a delicious spread of desserts and drinks laid out. I would've liked to stay longer with them to enjoy the tailgate party but I had to keep moving so my legs wouldn't cramp up.

To get through the second half of the 50 miles I mentally divided the remaining distance into aid station stops. With only two remaining, I felt a burst of energy and optimism. "I can do this," I thought. While running loop six I passed a tow truck pulling a 4x4 truck out of a ditch. It had spun off of Knight Road by Siefferts Farm Market. Black ice was still a problem in the shade. I had to be careful. Ken Richardson found me at my aid station as I was preparing to start the final 10km loop. Because he had an appointment at 4 p.m. he could only run with me for the first kilometer or so. Before turning around he encouraged me that I was in good shape to reach my goal.

With a great sense of joy and accomplishment, as the sun set over Mount Washington, I arrived at Point Holmes. I didn't realize how cold I had become until I got home and was helped into a warm bath by my wife. I went directly from there to a bed under three blankets. I turned on the room's electric heater (unusual for me). It took me a couple of hours to calm the chills.

Shoes: Altra Olympus 2
Drinks: Nuun, (Active, Boost)
Nutrition: Ensure protein drink, Mars chocolate bars, Cliff gels, bacon.


Sarge said...

Way to go Rob. I enjoyed your mile-by-mile account. Sounds like you have some great buddies to see you along the way.

robsargeant said...

It was great to have the some from the running community come out and support me. Helps to spur me on when running solo.